Righteous Anger?

WSJ 10/3/2018
Sen. Orrin Hatch

Anotable shift occurred in the left’s anti-Kavanaugh campaign over the weekend. Attention has turned away from Christine Blasey Ford’s allegations of sexual assault— the entire reason for last week’s hearing and the ensuing delay in Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation vote—and toward his behavior at the hearing.

We’re starting to see arguments like the following: Even if Judge Kavanaugh is innocent, what he said at the hearing, and how he said it, is disqualifying. This is rich. The hearing occurred in the first place only because of Democratic duplicity. It occurred only because Senate Democrats sat on Ms. Ford’s allegations for six weeks rather than referring them to committee investigators, as they should have done immediately. It occurred only because Ms. Ford’s lawyers— recommended to Ms. Ford by Senate Democrats—refused to tell their client of our invitation to testify privately in California, as she said she preferred.

That Judge Kavanaugh had the temerity to defend himself vigorously is now being counted as a strike against him. Over and over we hear him described as “angry,” “belliger- ent” or “partisan,” followed by the claim that his conduct at the hearing shows that he lacks a judicial temperament. Even “Saturday Night Live” got in on the action.

You’ve got to be kidding me. Do the people making this argument really expect a man who until five seconds ago had an unblemished reputation to sit passively while his reputation is viciously and permanently destroyed? While he is accused of the most horrific and obscene acts imaginable? Judge Kavanaugh’s critics seem to be aghast that he is a human being who is unwilling to take slander lying down.

Had Judge Kavanaugh sat dispassionately through Thursday’s hearing and denied the allegations weakly, his critics would have taken his lack of forcefulness as proof of guilt. We all know this. We’re not stupid. Spare us the pearl-clutching.

More to the point, this whole “temperament” argument is a non sequitur. Obviously Judge Kavanaugh would recuse himself if his own case came before the court. We’re told that a man who reacts with understandable indignation when he is falsely accused cannot be a dispassionate arbiter of disputes involving third parties.

But we don’t need to guess about how Judge Kavanaugh behaves when he’s actually on the bench. He has a 12-year track record. And here’s what the American Bar Association had to say about him after interviewing more than 100 fellow judges and lawyers who know and have appeared before him: “Lawyers and judges overwhelmingly praised Judge Kavanaugh’s judicial temperament.”

Then there’s the matter of Judge Kavanaugh’s alcohol consumption. Not since Prohibition have so many news outlets reported on drinking habits with such interest.

Countless articles have been written about how Judge Kavanaugh “lied” about his high-school and college drinking at the hearing, thereby calling into question his honesty. These articles claim the judge portrayed himself as a “choirboy” who, in the words of the New York Times, enjoyed “a beer or two as a high school and college student.” Then they hit back with quotes from college acquaintances who say they saw the judge drink quite a lot.

This is known in the business as a straw man. Judge Kavanaugh never claimed he always drank in moderation. To the contrary, he admitted, “Sometimes I had too many beers.” If Judge Kavanaugh’s opponents want to claim he lied about his drinking when he was younger, perhaps they should stop lying about what he actually said.

A slightly different straw man concerns Judge Kavanaugh’s statements at the hearing that he never blacked out from drinking. The Times and others have gathered testimonials from classmates who say they heard the judge “slur his words” and saw him “staggering” from alcohol consumption, as if this were proof that he blacked out from drinking. But of course Judge Kavanaugh never denied that he slurred his words or staggered. He said he never blacked out. Even a teetotaling Mormon knows the difference.

What’s going on here is obvious. Having failed to bring down Judge Kavanaugh with unsubstantiated allegations of sexual abuse, his opponents are now trying to call into question his character in defending himself from those allegations. It’s the ultimate set-up job. If the initial charges don’t work, we’ll destroy him when he defends himself. The good judge is damned no matter what he does.

This is further evidence that this whole sordid saga was never about the truth. It was never about justice for Ms. Ford. It was always and only about defeating Judge Kavanaugh by any means necessary. If the claims about sexual assault—a serious and important topic that deserves respectful consideration, not this farce—fail to stick, we’ll take him down with straw men about drinking and nitpicking about yearbooks.

The latest claim is that Judge Kavanaugh lied when he testified that he first learned about Deborah Ramirez’s allegations of lewd conduct from “the New Yorker story.” NBC News reports he might have discussed the matter with fellow Yale alumni before the story’s publication. In fact, he testified he’d heard “that she was calling around to classmates trying to see if they remembered” the events she described. The New Yorker quotes him denying the allegations— so it seems a fair conclusion he learned of the precise claim from the New Yorker story as it was being prepared for publication.

He also reportedly threw ice at someone in a bar in 1985. So there’s that.

I for one have had enough of this charade. Judge Kavanaugh is a good man and a good judge who doesn’t deserve this treatment or anything like it. What he does deserve is confirmation.

Mr. Hatch, a Utah Republican, is president pro tempore of the U.S. Senate and a member of the Judiciary Committee.

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